On the day the Iraq Study Group will release its report to the public, the Washington Postleads with a few more revelations of what it will contain. According to the paper's source, the commission will advise President Bush to threaten the Iraqi government with a reduction of U.S. monetary and military support if it doesn't meet specific benchmarks. USA Todayleads with the release of the ISG's report but also mentions the Senate armed services committee unanimously approved the nomination of Robert M. Gates to be secretary of defense, a story that tops the Wall Street Journal worldwide newsbox and leads the New York Timesand Los Angeles Times.During the hearings, Gates said the United States is not winning in Iraq and warned that a failure could lead to a regional conflict.
The Post also got its hands on some correspondence and says some of the commission's advisers believe the war has already been lost. An early draft of the report stated that "there is even doubt that any level of resources could achieve the administration's stated goals, given the illiberal and undemocratic political forces, many of them Islamic fundamentalists, that will dominate large parts of the country for a long time." Bush got a preview of the report from James Baker, the commission's co-chairman, over lunch yesterday. The ISG will present the report to the White House at 7 a.m., and they will then go to Capitol Hill to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. At that time, the report will be made public on several Web sites.
The Gates hearing was very cordial as the nominee assured senators he would speak his mind to the White House. "I'm not coming here to be a bump on a log and not say exactly what I think," he said. He started with this trend by pointing out a few of the Pentagon's previous policies with which he disagrees. Gates was also sure to say that despite all the different Iraq reviews currently under way, "it's my impression that frankly there are no new ideas on Iraq," but he emphasized "all options are on the table."
Both the NYT and LAT publish analysis pieces that compare Gates' previous confirmation hearing in 1991 and yesterday's. In 1991, the hearings lasted more than four months and had thousands of witnesses. Yesterday, on the other hand, Gates faced a "congressional love-fest … for the simple reason that he was not Donald H. Rumsfeld," according to the LAT. And this point of Gates being the "un-Rumsfeld" is echoed in several pieces across the papers today. Slate's Fred Kaplan was impressed by the Gates hearing and says he "may well be that entity that Washington has not seen for many years: a truly independent secretary of defense."
The NYT fronts word from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that he wants to hold a regional conference to discuss the future of Iraq. As the WP emphasizes, Maliki made it clear he wants the conference to be held in Iraq and not in another country as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had proposed. Everybody mentions the top spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, said the Iraqis would take control of their country's forces by mid-2007 and take over security responsibility for all of the provinces by next fall.
The LAT says most officials in Baghdad aren't giving much stake to the release of the Iraq Study Group's report, or any of the other reviews for that matter, saying they're working on their own solutions.
The U.S. military announced three American soldiers died in Iraq on Monday. The LAT catches word of a suicide bombing outside a contractor complex in Afghanistan today that killed two Americans and four Afghans.
The NYT reefers word from two sources that at least five Marines will be charged with the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha in November 2005. It is still not clear when the charges will be made public.
The WP's David Ignatius is in Dubai, and he spoke with Iran's national security adviser, who said his country would only help in Iraq if the United States sets a timeline for troop withdrawal.
The WP fronts Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the future House majority leader, announcing that lawmakers will have to get used to working five days a week once the next Congress convenes. In the past few months, whenever the Congress was in session, the legislative week lasted from late on Tuesday to Thursday afternoon. Democratic leaders say they have put forward an ambitious agenda, which is why the extra days will be needed. On the other hand, as a Republican representative points out, the new schedule will make it difficult for freshmen lawmakers to get time in their districts to campaign among their constituents.
The WSJ says Republicans in Congress are acting "like a retreating army" by "planting legislative land mines to make it harder for Democrats to govern" next year. Republicans are letting Democrats deal with the overdue spending bills, and some want the new Congress to take on other costs that came as a result of decisions made by the current lawmakers. "It's a demonstration of the irresponsibility of Republicans that they would leave this country with this mess," Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the incoming House speaker, said.
Everyone notes Russian officials are imposing several restrictions on British detectives who are visiting the country to investigate the death of the former spy. British officials will not be allowed to extradite any suspects, and the Russians said they would conduct all the interrogations. One of the key witnesses investigators wanted to talk to has checked himself into a hospital, allegedly to undergo radiation tests.
The LAT fronts the Supreme Court's nearly unanimous decision yesterday that immigrants convicted of minor drug charges are not subject to mandatory deportation.
The NYT fronts word that, as many no doubt realized, spam has gotten worse in the last six months. The worldwide volume of spam has doubled since last year, and much of it is due to "image spam." When spammers put the words as part of a picture, it manages to fool many of the anti-spam systems. As with most technology, spammers are quickly learning how to get around safeguards in order to reach your inbox.
It's quite a gift … During the Gates hearing, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said, "I talk to those who've lost their lives, and they have that sense of duty and mission."
What will the base think? … The WP's Reliable Source reports that Mary Cheney, the vice president's lesbian daughter, is pregnant. According to the paper's source, Cheney and her partner of 15 years are excited about the baby, which they expect sometime in late spring.